Prominent U.S. senators ask DOJ to block Humana-Aetna deal; and FAA hits Amazon with another hazardous shipping fine

A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 4:23 p.m.

Richard Blumenthal

HUMANA: A group of high-profile U.S. Senate Democrats yesterday urged the Justice Department to block the proposed Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers, which would shrink the number of national health insurers to three from five. In a letter, they argued the pending tie-ups would threaten jobs, raise premiums, and reduce the quality of care. The letter was signed by Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California, Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii — and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, in whose state both Aetna and Cigna are headquartered (Business Insurance). Aetna officials have said they expect the $37 billion merger with Humana will close in this year’s second half.

AMAZON: The FAA has proposed fining Amazon another $130,000 for twice shipping hazardous packages in 2014 without warning labels or emergency response information. In one,  the retailer offered UPS a box with a 19-ounce container of Simple Air EZ Green HVAC Cleaner. The flammable gas was discovered by UPS workers in Kentucky; the second incident involved FedEx. The proposed penalty comes two weeks after the FAA fined Amazon $350,000 over a similar incident that caused injuries to several UPS workers (CIO). Also, a San Francisco Bay area woman learned the hard way that Amazon can, indeed, ban you for good if you return too many orders — although she eventually got a reprieve (NBC). Amazon employs 6,000 at two distribution centers near Louisville.

Papa John's logoPAPA JOHN’S: Researcher Nomura yesterday downgraded Papa John’s stock to neutral from buy, partly because of concerns traffic accidents involving delivery drivers could push up insurance costs. Among the examples cited: A jury in DeKalb County, Ga., awarded $11 million to a woman who suffered long-term brain damage after an incident involving a Papa John’s driver. “While this award likely will be appealed (if it hasn’t already),” Nomura told clients, “it does highlight what appears to us to be the growing risks.” The firm also downgraded Domino’s shares for the same reason (MarketWatch). Wall Street was unfazed: Papa John’s shares closed today at $67.79, up 2.3%.

BROWN-FORMAN is launching a global scavenger hunt to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its flagship Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Starting July 1 through September, the distiller will provide clues via its Facebook page to 150 hidden whiskey barrels around the world and give fans the opportunity to find and win prizes. The barrels will be hidden at airports in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Heathrow, Milan, Paris, Singapore, Los Angeles and Sydney, plus cultural and historic sites (Frontier Magazine and Travel Retail Business).

FORD and the other two big U.S. automakers collectively outperformed import brands for just the second time in 30 years in this year’s closely watched J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. Still, Ford finished No. 11; Kia was No. 1 (Detroit Free Press). The automaker employs nearly 10,000 workers at its auto and truck factories in Louisville.

UPS: A Idaho woman is praising a UPS driver after he likely saved her and her sons from what could have been a deadly house fire last month (East Idaho News). UPS is Louisville’s single-biggest employer, with about 22,000 workers its Worldport hub at Louisville International Airport, the biggest fully automated package handling facility in the world.

TACO BELL: A viral video of a teenager’s arrest for allegedly brandishing a knife at a Taco Bell employee in Wisconsin has sparked protests and an internal police inquiry (The Root).

In other news, Texas Roadhouse shares closed at $46.55, up 3% — another record closing high — after setting an earlier intraday high of $46.60. And Churchill Downs shares closed at $127.60 up 63 cents as nearly two million shares changed hands — 10 times average volume. Standard & Poor’s announced the Louisville company would replace Fortune Brands Home & Security in the S&P MidCap 400 after the close of trading today (RTT News).

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